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What's the
Best Handgun Caliber?
(Page 1)
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By Dan S Defense

In this article we'll attempt to find the "best handgun caliber". It's a significant challenge, since there are several handgun calibers available in the market place. The typical ones range from .22 caliber up to .50 caliber.

Each caliber was designed with a specific goal in mind, and therefore each will have advantages in some scenarios, and limitations in others. We'll need to take all of these into account as we look at which is "best handgun caliber". In this article will forgo the massive .50 caliber and the tiny .22 caliber.

We'll also leave out the 40 S&W which seems to be very popular with Law Enforcement Officers (LEO). In our search for the "best handgun caliber", we'll look at the 45 ACP, the 9mm, and the 380 ACP. If you read this article, you ought to be able to determine which is "best handgun caliber"--for your needs. The goal is to give you a logical matrix for the "best handgun caliber" and enable you to match your needs with a specific caliber, rather than provide an opinion which states "I think that caliber Foo is better than caliber Bar".

Finally, I own handguns for each of these calibers, which means that I see value in each of these calibers. Given that, you are assured a dispassionate analysis rather than a zealous lecture on the topic of "best handgun caliber".

Before we start with looking into which is the "best handgun caliber", we'll need to clarify a few points, to assure you agree with the findings, prior to investing time in reading this article.

Caliber Selection and Process of Evaluation

Firstly, why choose the 45 ACP, 9mm Luger and 380 ACP and not one of the many other calibers, in the search for the "best handgun caliber"?

That's a fair question. We want this article to be relevant to as many folks as possible. While an argument can be made for the inclusion of the 40 S&W caliber, we think that it is most popular with police departments, or more specifically, their purchasers, and that may or may not reflect the choice of individual officers. Another reason for selecting the above ammo for "the best handgun caliber" has to do with the availability of a specific caliber.

I ran a few sample checks and found that it is easier to find 40 S&W ammo, at least at the places I get ammo from, than any of the calibers we'll review here. Granted, it isn't very scientific but it provides an additional data point. And lastly, I don't own a handgun chambered in 40 S&W and I only write about guns or ammo that I own and use.

Secondly, how will we determine which is the "best handgun caliber"? As we said before, the goal of this article is to provide a logical matrix rather than "I think that caliber Foo is better than caliber Bar". Our methodology will be based on a rational approach, and examine each caliber, in the context of a real life scenario. At the end, the caliber that ranks highest in most scenarios, earns the right to be called the "best handgun caliber".

Thirdly, there's a significant challenge that has to do with people's emotional attachment to the caliber they like most. That one is typically seen as one and only "best handgun caliber". I often see people arguing without reason for the caliber they prefer, making up all sorts of positive attributes, and doing their best not to listen to the other person, who does the same exact thing, for some different caliber. It's a one way argument, on both sides, which leads nowhere but generates lots of noise. In this case, we'll skip any emotional argument, state the facts and let you decide which is truly the "best handgun caliber".

To find which is the "best handgun caliber", we'll look at the following real life scenarios: home defense, self defense with concealed carry and self defense while hiking in the wilderness.

Caliber: 380 ACP (aka 9mm Kurtz)

The 380 ACP caliber is typically found in small pocket guns. For self defense, some would argue that the 380 ACP just barley makes the bar as an acceptable caliber, while other would say that anything below 9mm doesn't count. I think it's more of a question of what type of gun you are willing to carry and in which scenarios. I know if several people that only use 380 ACP caliber handguns because they are small, light and easy to carry. These folks value personal comfort above any other factor and its better that they carry a 380 ACP than nothing at all.

In the current ammunition shortage, 380 ACP ammo is hard to get and if you need some, this article will help you in locating 380 ACP ammo. Despite the fact that 380 ACP ammo is small, magazine capacity is typically caped at 7 to 8 rounds, because it mostly fits in small sub compact handguns. Now, let's see how the 380 ACP caliber works in different scenarios.

For home defense, the 380 ACP doesn't make sense, unless it's the only caliber you own and then it is better than nothing. In home defense, there is no need to conceal or carry the handgun. It can be kept in a small safe next to bed, on permanent stand-by and it can therefore be a large and heavy gun. Given that, a 380 ACP with its border line effectiveness wouldn't be my first or second choice. In the quest for the "best handgun caliber", the grade here is "D".

For self defense with concealed carry; the 380 ACP can work in certain scenarios. In hot summer days, the small and light 380 ACP can be carried in a pocket, comfortably and with high level of concealment. In addition, in summer you are less likely to encounter someone wearing heavy clothing, something that could affect penetration and expansion.

Given this, the 380 ACP can be used for summer carry, if you can get something more potent or if you are not willing to compromise on comfort. During winter, the 380 ACP becomes less viable, unless you are willing to use more potent ammunition, which will be associated with additional recoil. Overall, the 380 ACP can be used for summer carry but with several caveats and less than strong endorsement. In the quest for the "best handgun caliber", the grade here is "C+".

For self defense while hiking in the wilderness, the 380 ACP falls short. You could encounter human or animal predators and the stopping power of the 380 ACP may not be sufficient. Depending on region, the animals that you could encounter would depend the caliber which would be most suited for the job of keeping you safe. In some areas, where mountain lions roam, I'd want a 44 Magnum with a long barrel, but you take what you have and hope for the best.

Overall, for hiking in the wild, the 380 ACP is lacking and might offer a false sense of security, but still, it is always better than nothing. In the quest for the "best handgun caliber", the grade here is "D-".

Caliber: 9mm Luger
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